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This whole concept is a big reason why I have distanced myself from most of my mom friends (ie those who see the nuclear family as default).

I am a single mother who is overall happy and doing my best to make truly free choices, but also struggling make it in a society that sees single motherhood as the problem rather than the structures that keep single mothers from thriving in their singlehood.

I grew tired and frustrated and honestly a bit disgusted spending time with my married friends who have deluded themselves into thinking that the hard choices of escaping bad marriages or at least standing up to their half-assed (or worse) husbands are not choices they can make.

Particularly since many of these women are privileged enough to be able to make those hard decisions and still more or less be ok.

They refuse to admit to themselves that they *can* make those choices, but it's going to make life harder for them, and that's not a price they're willing to pay for legit feminism.

So they get together with me because I'm a safe space and complain about their husbands.

And they put me on a pedestal for making my hard choices and sacrificing security in the name of freedom rather than meeting me there or even really understanding my existence.

Patriarchy is awful, but internalized misogyny is right up there.

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I'm committing a sin by weighing in despite not having been married and having kids myself I should keep my mouth shut, but I'm bored so gotta add my two cents, I noticed no mention of the effect of divorce on the kids, which is not to disregard abusive marriages or claim children are better off within them, speaking from experience I had two married parents with no love between them and my dad was abusive to boot, its no picnic either way but the reality is likely that as bad as it was for me I would have been even worse off had my parents got divorce, cause I know how my mother definitely would of had countless men in the house and while I agree with you that single moms are less in need of a husband than they are of resources, its the men in a single moms life that truly harms the children. A single mom as a individual can make good decisions with partners or just get lucky but if we are to scale the rate of single motherhood up & up that is going to create many men coming through a household until a evil one wrecks irreparable damage.

I think those moms you know probably don't want freedom from their children that divorce will usually entail with custody arrangements and full on battles.

Its one of numerous examples of the double bind, but it is significant that the figure of the mother is the opposite of a free independent figure, she is literally at one point not one person but two and I don't figure we would want to sever mother love if could.

This is ill at odds with man as homo economicus the foundation of our political conception of a autonomous person, the greatest good in our capitalist estimation.

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This post really hits the nail on the head *applauds*. Still, I have a bone to pick with one line: 'sexism permeates into the private sphere more often and more intimately than other kinds of oppression tend to'. As a disabled woman: no, it doesn't, unless you're simply counting the number of people affected. This is basic intersectionality. The impact ableism has on my personal relationships is, hands down, greater than the impact of sexism, precisely because it's a less recognised form of oppression and its targets are more marginalised. It's closely entwined with sexism, too, because ideas of ability are so gendered. There's similar stories for many different kinds of oppression, from transphobia to racism.

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Love this. I definitely think some of this comes from the fact that bodily autonomy gets confused with feminism itself. Bodily autonomy is essential, and I will always defend someone's right to get botox or not, engage with intentional weight loss or not, have an abortion or not, get tattoos or not, do their nails or not, etc. But that doesn't make those choices feminist, nor necessarily value neutral.

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Thanks for this. These are critical distinctions with many parallels, particularly when you mix class, race, ability, and the like into it. As I read, all I could think about was women who have to work and raise their kids. I really don't know too many who have a choice in the matter. Against that consider that men are rarely in that position, and when they do "choose" they are hailed as heroes. This is all in a system that does underpay women and underpays BIPOC women much more. Turning women out to vote isn't just about abortion, for sure. And it cannot end with just voter turnout. I will say that as a grandmother to four grandsons, you can bet that I'm teaching them that patriarchy is bad for everyone. I like your closing - "Without the crushing incentives to comply with patriarchy...what options would that woman really have?" But we are a nation that so doesn't want to deal with dismantling structural anything. It's much easier just to forget all that and assume that everyone is on a level playing field.

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When the phrase “Girls will be girls,” is used to explain away bad behavior we may have a fighting chance. Right now we’re fussing over the carpet color while the building is on fire. Appreciate your point, just hate that we are still here and moving backwards in so much.

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I came to this article by way of Jamelle Bouie's newsletter. I disagree with much that he says, but I try to understand his viewpoint.

I have a few problems with your post, and I disagree with most of it. But I'd like to offer some suggestions. First, I think you need to be far more specific. You hide behind academese, and lack clarity. Like -- specifically -- cite where you fight sexism and where you surrender in your day to day life. Just saying so doesn't make it so. My takeaway from this post is that you place all/most of your value on your ability to generate an income. A lot of highly educated women work in the workforce. A lot of highly educated women work in their homes as primary caregivers to the next generation. (Survival is different from "choices;" many people -- men and women -- work solely to survive. But that's not what you're harping on).

For example, the issue of taking a husband's last name is both personal and community-driven. It shouldn't be political. I know many people who do both. If you must know, the more well-adjusted women that I know tend to be the ones who take their husbands names, but that's not a reflection of the action. It speaks to a certain type of woman -- one's who don't, tend towards infighting, fighting, dissatisfaction, and a general sense of victimization. That being said, some of my most level-headed friends kept their names! But they're a certain type, too: practical, sensory-driven (as opposed to intuitive), cerebral but not creative, great at working but, please god, keep them out of the kitchen because they lack artistry.

Most creatives/artists are not going to make a lot of money anyway, and derive personal satisfaction from creating. Creating, within the home environment, is a never-ending canvas. Create a meal that keeps the whole family at the table for longer than 30 minutes. Do you think that's easy? Try it. Create a home filled with peace and beauty. Think that's easy? Try it -- on a budget, no less. Ditto with clothing yourself and a family (fashion is more than function, as any creative or aesthete knows). Plant a garden, raise a chicken, paint your house, throw a pot, instill a sense of wonder.

This isn't a put-down to career-driven women. I'm pointing out value/proclivity/purpose differences. What makes the world a wonderful place is that we're all a little different, and when we're combined in a gorgeous human ball, we make everything more complete.

So be different.

PS. I'm not a feminist. The feminists never wanted me. If you're too stuck in dogma, you lose hearts and minds.

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Jul 27, 2023·edited Jul 27, 2023

I dream of a future where abortion is not the free woman's reason for being, admittedly I do already have the option not to choose abortion when presented with it but there is something humiliating & dehumanizing about having to desexed ourselves in order to be considered full equal persons.

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great article! many influencers are exercising choice feminism by getting cosmetic treatments done and saying online that it was THEIR choice because it looks good to THEM but the audience is free in being whoever they want to be :( disgusting

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Because there would be no gender politics firewall involved here of any kind I ended up musing about Don Draper and the Coke ad. He chose his choice but his choices were so constrained by his past behavior that any perfectly good choices he could have made would literally have taken place after the series was over.

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"There is perhaps no adult woman living who has not had the heartbreaking realization that some intimate, emotionally vital relationship she shares with a man is tainted by the sexism that contaminates his view of her"

a) If said adult woman has been raised by women living in a completely lesbian world she may have a fighting chance

b) Despite literally using my husband's name for Substack purposes I am actually a woman. I can testify that those relationships are also contaminated by internalized sexism which much of the post gestured at

In general I was exposed a long time ago to Catherine McKinnon saying that you have not finished the job if there is a woman in the role which you managed to escape. So I have believed my whole adult life that feminism means solidarity. An individual woman who did not want to sign on to activist feminism can be an example to other women of what is possible but not a feminist icon per se.

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I understand that "choice" is not politically neutral and agency is a privilege. Some have more leverage to attain selfhood while others 'choose' to be subjugated by social structures because there are few to zero incentives in resisting against these norms. However, I am curious--doesn't the critique of 'choice' occlude moments where women really enjoy their choices? I know the article doesn't imply this, but the extreme position and interpretation one could get from this- - is that it would seem that women who choose to be with men or desire a family are unhappy and oppressed. Perhaps I am on a defensive mood because from the get go I wanted to be in a committed relationship with a man who understands, respects, and loves me. Now that I am--a process I consider hard work (the travails of dating and all, of course I'd rather be myself than be with a horrible partner)-- I don't mind taking his last name or become a housewife. I find joy from these choices for myself, and I don't intent to impose this on others. The article says that 'feeling' is a poor gauge to critique choices. But critics in this case might tend to position themselves as more enlightened to know more about other people's situation--without analyzing the personal, social, and cultural factors at play--and condemn them as incapable of making that choice for themselves. Of course, I am all for evaluating our and others' choices without denying the will and agency of the individual though socially rooted is still personal and can be liberating.

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Moira, your writing is so thoughtful and engaging; it encourages me think about our current dumpster fire of politics. Simultaneously your powerful words get under my skin and pull at the heartstrings. Quite an endeavor to balance both the cerebral and emotional so astutely. Reading some comments kinda bummed me out, so I thought that I’d write something as an act of solidarity and encouragement. Thank you for saying what needs to be said. I appreciate your SITC reference, the Charolette analogy is very sharp and her quote cracks me up. “I chose my choice!” pretty much sums up the most asinine and contradictory flaws in 21st century feminist discourse. To me, choice feminism feels like a bad faith argument and it seems to legitimize the conservative language of freedom as some kind of holy grail. “Freedom of choice” terminology is often used by shady politicians in order to side step the more “unpleasant” (ie feminist) reasoning for why we must keep abortion safe and legal. All women are worthy of dignity and respect; women must be allotted equal protection and equal opportunity under the law. In the Dobbs case, that infamous Alito line about how ‘women are not without economic and political power’ seems like a key example of this bad faith argument. Jokes on the supreme court, because women are voting en masse to support abortion. Until sexism is eradicated, true choice is an illusion, because really there are very few good choices while caged within the current system. Keep writing, because the world needs more creative and intelligent voices like yours!

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